Dearest Streets.mn enthusiasts (and anyone else who has this post shared with them).
After literal years of posting about Hennepin Ave S (see here, here, and here for just a few of the many examples) and what its redesign means for city street planning, we are finally coming up on the city council committee vote to approve a design. The city’s professional public works staff recommended months ago a design that has wider pedestrian facilities, a bidirectional bike lane on the eastern side of the road, dedicated turn lanes for vehicle traffic, and 24/7 dedicated bus lanes throughout the corridor in preparation for the E-Line BRT route. A summary of this recommended design can be found here and a full design here.
Since that recommended layout was released, Mayor Frey appointed Margaret Anderson Kelliher (MAK) as Director of Public Works. This was a particularly noteworthy appointment both because MAK had previously served as MnDOT’s head, which made this seem like a potential step down in prestige, but also because MAK is very good friends with Councilmember Lisa Goodman, a notorious opponent of the Hennepin Ave S recommended design and the City’s Transportation Action Plan overall (Council Member Goodman was the lone vote against the TAP). Whether coincidental or not, MAK’s appointment has thrown some of the staff recommended design elements into question, most notably whether the 24/7 bus lane will be maintained or whether buses will be left to fight through traffic mixed with other vehicles. On the plus side, based on recently approved design variances for curb placement, it does appear that the bidirectional bike lane and widened pedestrian facilities will be maintained as part of the design, barring any last minute tomfoolery at City Hall.
“But Peter, buses are a huge equity and climate concern, carry nearly half of all users in the corridor currently even when mixed with traffic, and we should absolutely be giving them 24/7 dedicated lanes to ensure they run as efficiently as possible!” is something you might be saying to yourself. You’re right! Especially as our city population keeps growing, we need to make sure that our buses run as efficiently as possible to make them a viable way for more people to get around. Not everyone can drive, both physically and because there simply isn’t enough road space for everyone to have a car. Every person using the bus is helping reduce traffic congestion in the system. And regular bus riders are more likely to be people of color or come from disadvantaged communities, making them a very important priority for our city.
So what can you do? You’ve hopefully signed petitions and sent in comments by this point (and if not, you can still email the planning team, the mayor, and your city council member). In-person public hearings are back on the docket. There’s no more phoning in your testimony. The Hennepin Ave S public hearing for the recommended design appears* to be happening on May 19th at the 1:30pm Public Works & Infrastructure (PWI) committee meeting. The agenda hasn’t been released yet, so there is some uncertainty there, but my intel and public statements by some of the council members at neighborhood meetings indicate that May 19th is the target. Show up and support the original staff recommended design with 24/7 bus lanes, bidirectional bike lane, and expanded pedestrian facilities. The bike lanes are great and a big win, but we need to support the dedicated bus lines, as well, to make sure we are taking all of the necessary steps to make this an equitable, climate-forward design. Invite your friends, hold signs in the chamber, and let’s finally get this project over the finish line so I can go back to writing about something else.
Here’s your TL;DR:
What: Pre-register to speak at Public Works & Infrastructure (PWI) Committee’s Hennepin Avenue public hearing.
When*: The public hearing will most likely be on May 19th at 1:30pm but has been delayed in the past. Stay tuned for last second updates or changes.
Why: So we can get the best Hennepin Ave S route possible and set a precedent for future City road projects.
Who: You and all of your transit supporting friends!
Link: Pre-registration link